Opinion » Lead

Updated: July 24, 2012 01:10 IST

Why the government is paralysed

Prem Shankar Jha
Comment (66)   ·   print   ·   T  T  

Don’t blame Manmohan Singh. Look for the reasons in the Congress dyarchy that places organisation above parliamentary party

Indians have been wondering whom to blame for the paralysis that has afflicted their government for the last two years. Time magazine’s cover picture of Manmohan Singh, captioned “The Underachiever”, seems to have made up their minds for them. But granted that Dr. Singh is not a natural leader can one ever, justifiably, pin the blame for the collapse of an entire governmental system on a single person?

In Dr. Singh’s case we need to look all the harder for other explanations because he is the same person who piloted a painless transition from a command to a market economy and, a decade later, brokered the coalition with Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s People’s Democratic Party — in the teeth of opposition from the Indian intelligence agencies — that gave the Kashmiris the first government they felt they could call their own. This began the marginalisation of militant separatism in the Valley.

Equally important are the things Dr. Singh prevented from happening. In 2001, the United States responded to 9/11 by invading Afghanistan. In 2002, the NDA responded to the abortive terrorist attack on Parliament by mobilising three quarters of a million soldiers on the Pakistan border. In 2008, Dr. Singh responded to 26/11 by resisting every demand from an enraged public to hit back at Pakistan, and continued to do so even after the terrorists’ phone calls revealed the role of the Inter-Services Intelligence in the attack.

Extraordinary forbearance

History has vindicated his restraint. The U.S. is stuck in a quagmire from which it has yet to extricate itself; Operation Parakram gained a diplomatic victory for India, but asking the army to mobilise fully for a war that the political leaders never intended to wage sowed the seeds of distrust in the military that have weakened civilian control over it. By contrast, the present warming of relations between our two countries would never have begun had Dr. Singh not exercised extraordinary forbearance in 2008.

Add to all these his authorship of the proposal to resolve the Kashmir dispute by softening and eventually erasing the Line of Control that found favour with President Pervez Musharraf, and the India-U.S. nuclear agreement, and his place in history should have been secure.

Why then is it so much in doubt? The sole answer is the striking contrast between the effectiveness of the first UPA government and the ineffectiveness of the second. Failing to find any other explanation, most analysts have concluded that the change must lie in Dr. Singh himself. However seductive it is to believe that changing the Prime Minister will solve all our problems, the truth is that it will change nothing. The explanation is to be found in the growing dysfunctionality of our political system. UPA-II just happens to be in power when it has come to a head.

A clue to where the problem lies is the fact that nearly all of Dr. Singh’s successes lie in the realm of foreign policy. In this respect, Indian democracy is beginning to resemble the American more and more. Harold Laski may have been the first to note, in his definitive analysis of the American presidency three quarters of a century ago, that the absence of strict party discipline and the ubiquity of cross-voting in the U.S. Congress severely limited the power of the President to pass domestic legislation. It took a crisis of the dimension of the Great Depression of the 1930s to enact the New Deal. It was, therefore, only in foreign policy that U.S. Presidents had been able to exert their full authority.

Dr. Singh has been suffering from a similar liability. During UPA-I, India’s GDP was growing at almost 9 per cent and there was a palpable sense of well-being in the country. The challenges he faced were therefore mostly in the realm of foreign relations, and on related issues like Kashmir. Even during that period, consensus on domestic issues was conspicuous by its absence. The business community frequently expressed the disappointment that Dr. Singh was unable to reform the labour laws and open up key sectors like retail trade and insurance to foreign investment. But since the Congress depended for its survival on the Left, which had never hidden its opposition to these reforms, people did not have to look any further for the causes of its paralysis.

Domestic challenges

During UPA-II, by contrast, almost all the challenges the government has faced have been domestic: a rapid decline of economic growth , near-stagnation in industry; worsening infrastructure; a resurgence of inflation, now driven by domestic and international shortages; a dramatic worsening of the naxalite menace and a middle class revolt against the corrupt and predatory Indian state. Remedies exist for all of these problems, but all of them will pit the populace against powerful vested interests that have thoroughly infiltrated the state machinery. Only a strong Prime Minister, capable of enforcing discipline on his party and his Cabinet, can push such reforms through. Dr. Singh’s inability to do so may spring to a limited extent from his personality. But a much more self-assertive Prime Minister would have been equally powerless.

The reason is the growing dysfunctionality of Indian democracy. While it is modelled on the British system of Cabinet government, it has failed to capture its spirit. The salient feature of the Cabinet government in Britain is its success in creating a powerful executive without impairing its accountability to the people. Although it is largely modelled on the British, Indian democracy has failed to achieve this synthesis.

The spirit of the British Constitution is enshrined in two underlying conventions that were born of three centuries of struggle for supremacy between the Crown and Parliament. The first is the Prime Minister’s unchallengeable right to dissolve Parliament and the Crown’s obligation to accept his (or her) recommendation. As a constitutional crisis in 1924 showed, this right inheres even in the head of a minority government when faced by a withdrawal of support from its coalition partner. In his classic treatise on British democracy, Cabinet Government, Ivor Jennings described this as the bedrock of party discipline in the U.K.

The second convention is that the parliamentary wing of a political party must enjoy unquestioned ascendancy over its organisational wing. The party, in short, exists to serve the elected representatives of the people, and not the other way about. In fact the term ‘political party’ is not even mentioned in any Constitution that has been modelled on the British — the American, the Canadian, the Australian and the Indian.

In India the first convention was destroyed the very first time it was put to the test when, in 1967, the Congress high command prevented its own chief minister in Madhya Pradesh, D.P. Mishra, from asking for a fresh election when faced by the defection of 31 MLAs to the opposition, and forced him to resign instead. It did this because it was itself organising defections from non-Congress governments in West Bengal, Bihar, Haryana and Punjab.

The refusal led, within months, to the epidemic of floor crossings for power or profit that came to be labelled as the Aaya Ram, Gaya Ram phenomenon. This virtually paralysed the State governments of northern India for two decades till Rajiv Gandhi brought it partly under control with the Anti-Defection Act of 1985.

However, this Act only curbed indiscipline within a political party. The full, deadly, impact of the 1967 denial was felt only when single party dominance gave way to coalition rule at the Centre. Shorn of the power to discipline coalition partners by threatening to make them face the electorate, prime ministers since Narasimha Rao have been forced to rely on “inducements” alone to keep their coalitions together. The proliferation of scams involving political parties has been a direct consequence.

The second convention was challenged repeatedly within the Congress: the first time in 1950 by Purushottam Das Tandon; a second time in 1969 by the ‘syndicate’ under Congress president S. Nijalingappa, and a third time at the AICC meeting at Tirupati in 1992 when a slate of regional leaders tried to capture the Congress Working Committee. On all three occasions, the parliamentary party withstood the challenge and maintained its right to decide policy even though in 1969, Indira Gandhi’s effort destroyed the undivided Congress.

But the supremacy of the parliamentary party over the Congress organisation this established was suddenly destroyed when Sonia Gandhi led the Congress to victory in 2004, then decided not to become prime minister, and then decided nonetheless to direct large chunks of policy from the back seat. The ensuing dyarchy within the Congress robbed the already weakened Prime Minister of control over Cabinet colleagues from his own party. In UPA-II, Pranab Mukherjee emerged as the Czar of finance and P. Chidambaram as that of home affairs. During UPA-I, the Prime Minister’s national security adviser isolated him from the intelligence chiefs. In UPA-II, his principal secretary owes his position not to the Prime Minister but the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi.

Today when Dr. Singh is faced with a choice he cannot tolerate, the only shock he can administer to his party is to offer to resign. This is a card that he already played to make his party accept the Indo-U.S. nuclear treaty. Today, we may need a crisis that sows the fear of defeat in the Congress to restore the primacy of the Prime Minister. The collapse of industrial growth could therefore prove a blessing in disguise.

(The writer is a senior journalist.)

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Dear Mr.Jha,

Dr,MMS should have resigned long ago when he knew his ministers were not acting on his command. HE didn't speak the truth in the Parliament when corruption came to light.It was because of S/COURT to which he had to bow to.
Had he resigned and gone to lecture in the Universities,he would have got laurels. But he seems to cling to the PM's post and doesn't worry for the welfare of the nation.

from:  nanda
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 23:47 IST

Mr. Singh's past records and achievements(non PM) had made him a clean-
n-clear face of the nation,but its also a fact ,that this clean face
has been used by UPA as an aegis for its various scams.
Leader is a leader,no matter if he is a puppet in someone's hands.
If a leader is appreciated for country's progress,then he should be held
responsible for dysfunctional govt too.

from:  Aseem Gautam
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 22:41 IST

To days position explained is the effect of the past deeds of all political parties in governance either single party or temporary one between parties of different motives called coalition.We have proved that neither of them got success in up bringing our country to the ambition of the people.Dr Manmohan Singh can not be blamed for the misdeeds or no deed.In fact it is a system failure and the parties are responsible which may be ending up our democracy in the long run.Instead of giving full support to the PM act freely the party in power is proving that he is under their control.All parties want to exploit the situation to meet their motives.It is not good for the country.It is time to evolve policies for the country to save democracy and not policy to meet all their motives.Remember all countries in the world are interested in the resources and not on us in the liberalised environment.Let people's faith on democracy need not be lost.Let us correct ourselves in the path of democracy

from:  santhanam
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 20:31 IST

Hats off to Mr. Jha for his audacious attempt to save the Prime minister . He has reeled out a number of points in his favour some of them being true,but what about languishing economic conditions which has made the condition worst for the man in the street ? Mr. Jha we need a strict administrator and not a gentlemen to govern the nation , as we already have enough from an economist!!

from:  tushar
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 19:34 IST

Current prime minister is not elected by the people directly. This is a short coming in the constitution. Indian constitution, the article says, is based on British Parliamentary System. But it is not in practice. Review of constitution is needed in the light of coalition governments dictating national policies and the absence national parties. India is a union of divergent regions and a constitution based on western systems would not be adequate to deal with current situations India facing today. Globalization has advantages and disadvantages and it is a challenge for government officials to address FDI and other issues in a timely manner.

from:  vijayaraghavan
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 13:41 IST

Mr. Jha,
In India the problem is with accountability. I do not think the people in position of
power even consider accountability being important. So all the things for which this
government has failed you want to blame the smaller parties. Accountability vs Blame
the debate goes on.

from:  Umesh Mishra
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 11:27 IST

As an economist Manmohan Singh knows poor governance leads to economic perils and he failed to cultivate accountability in public office. These adversely impact the country for very long time and would cost more for the country to repair the damage. His current political standing is of his making and he can blame no one. Even now he can make things right, by resigning. Such act will show that political in-fight isn’t good for the country. He will be remembered for that.

from:  Michael Titus
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 10:34 IST

A good analysis and very factual. There are many things that Party and The
Government could have done. The aggressive and sustained postures and actions of
The Opposition, the Media, The Anna Hazarae movement, both inside the Parliment
and outside, on the streets amongst several other events have left The Party and The
Government shell shocked to paralysis. There is nobody in both, the party and the
Government, who wants to take decisions for fear of prosecution and persecution.
One gets the impression that they are confused and 'frightened'. The world is
enjoying this, as they never wanted India to succeed. All who have and continue to
contribute to tis, with whatever motive, can take satisfaction that they have
succeeded. It is the Country and its people who are loosing.

from:  vram
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 08:46 IST

The government is paralyzed because of us. We, the people of India are quiet adept at jumping to conclusions based on media reports and the political activism of amateur national leaders like Anna Hazare. We must learn to pause, introspect and understand how the government works before criticizing our PM or any other politician for that matter.

from:  Bharath
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 07:49 IST

It is not just the Indian Government and MMS who are ineffective, the same is said about every government of the world and its leaders. The problem is endemic and results from the economic meltdown and its aftermath. No body is sure how to tackle this not just India, but they all want India and China to do something being the beneficiaries of disruption of Industrailiazed world as the manufactureing hub. India is quiet right by being cautious about uncertain times rather than drown in uncharted waters.

from:  Dr.Basheer Ahmed Khan
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 01:50 IST

A couple of days ago i read an article regarding the health schemes
Dr.Manmohan Singh has taken up. And now this article has strengthened
my views that Manmohan Singh is an honest man bearing the brunt of a
dishonest government. It is known to everybody that his powers are
limited and his threads are being held by the Congress "High Command."
Anybody with basic political knowledge can infer that. Nevertheless,
the coalition form of governance is the root cause of the PM's so
called "underachievement." Sonia Gandhi's primary worry is not to
bring about reforms but to keep UPA-II in power till next elections.
Even if at heart Manmohan intends to, he cannot take certain actions.
Also, the media today has a very negative perspective. The good is
never advertised while the bad is churned into "Special Focus" or
"News at 9" or some other program. Running a nation such as India,
with it's multitude of cultures, philosophies, opinions is a herculean
task. It is easy said than done.

from:  Rahul Revu
Posted on: Jul 24, 2012 at 00:46 IST

A long winded article that basically tries to absolve MMS of any blame
for the current morass we find ourselves in. As the previous comments
mentioned, it is a simple matter to resign and ride off into the
sunset. Sadly, MMS doesn't even have the pull with the populace to
stand for Lok Sabha election and get properly elected.

World's largest democracy - ruled from behind by an elected but not
accountable duo of Sonia and Rajiv and led from front by an unelected
- and hence unaccountable - leader.

from:  Sri
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 22:33 IST

when Mr.Singh could threaten to quit in matters of nuclear deal.why
couldn't he do it in taking appropriate action against the scams that

from:  Sai
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 22:21 IST

The author says that the present warming of relations between our two countries would never have begun had Dr. Singh not exercised extraordinary forbearance in 2008. What has the this "warming" achieved? Showing "extraordinary forbearance" is of course the hallmark of those who take a great (vicarious) pleasure in willingly showing the other cheek. And it helps in getting a good conduct certificate from the US and western Human Rights wallahs.

from:  kvjayan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 20:22 IST

Coalition government is the new norm in India under the current structure. Compulsions that come it are going to be used again and again as excuses by who ever forms the govt and they will be tolerated in the name of political stability. The time has come for more federalism perhaps even a US style chief executive who is elected separately from parliament and has a fixed term except when impeached for high crimes. On that matter, I never quite understood checks and balances in the Indian context. The party in power controls both Lok sabha and executive. Unless this party is a small minority in Rajya sabha there are no separate executive and legislature. As for our judiciary, it is has been systematically politicized and weakened by Indira and only now they have restarted to assert themselves. In some instances, however, they are overreaching and into areas where they should not (recent delhi court mandating health care for poor by all private hospitals is one example)

from:  kalyan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 19:51 IST

So now we shift the blame to the smaller parties that are blackmailing the center? What about die with pride than live in shame?

from:  Manny
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 18:13 IST

The article appears motivated to elevate and whitewash the image of Dr
Manmohan Singh when he is being universally targeted for inaction.
Unfortunately the attempt fails totally. Dr Singh was never expected
to be a strong and proactive Prime Minister but in the event managed
to underwhelm even his most ardent supporters in the media. If he had
only not laid himself squarely open to the charge of sinning by
omission ( 2G, CWG, handling of Anna Hazare, et al) the criticism
could have been deflected or perhaps even countered. He seemed
completely at sea when events broke around him and the UPA appeared
rudderless. Three years into the second innings, which was free of the
shackles restraining the UPA in its first, there is nothing to show.
Mr Jha has failed to convince.

from:  N.S.Rajan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 18:12 IST

Mr Jha's analysis makes sense and the probable disconnect between the Govt and the ruling
party does pose problems. The NAC is another body which works like a policy makiNg body.
Above all, it is the psychophancy in the party who yet believe in the so called charisma of the
"Gandhi" dynasty. If the party allows the present FM to carry out some urgently required
reforms to set our economy right and we find the right leaders who are respected (not Rahul)
before the next elections to try and get a greater say in the Govt than depend on coalition
partners who only have regional interests, we could see a sea change. Unfortunately the
BJP is in a worse plight and if they get to power with powerful regional parties it will be
worse. The BJP can improve their image if they just don't be a party that opposes but with
better bipartisan spirit on matters of national interest we could see many things improve in
our country and they can take credit for their role.

from:  S.N.Iyer
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 18:07 IST

Why did Yahoo oust its CEO. I am sure by Mr. Jha's explanation not one man can be responsible for the poor performance of the company. It is because the CEO is responsible for providing direction to everyone under him and steer the company. Similar is the case with Manmohan Singh. He is the PM. He may have thousand excuses for the policy paralysis but he is responsible for steering the country out of it. He is the PM for god sake. How do you explain decisions such as giving a new ministry to Vilasrao Deshmukh on the day he was called in for questioning of CBI. Could he not find anyone else? He cannot hide behind excuses and say that its a collective responsibility. It is not. The leader is responsible and he has to accept that rather than cry of being helpless. If he feels stifled then he should quit. Even though i respect Manmohan Singh he is losing credibility in front of my and several others who admired his skills as FM a decade back.

from:  Prasanth Balakrishnan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 18:02 IST

Our democracy and election system has to be changed wherein a National party coming to power should be allowed to rule for next 5 years wihout interruption and blackmailing of the smaller/regional parties...

from:  TMJ
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 16:28 IST

“it is the family of criticisms and suggestions that will, or should
, give the government a pointer on where the people want it to go.”
prem shankar Jha. It is naive to think government is really
bothered about “where the people want it to go.” For years, people
have been cry hoarse for an effective ombudsman to redress
corruption and tackling of black money stowed in overseas tax
heavens. Absolutely nothing has happened. Common man has very valid
reason to assume that the Government is least worried about his
welfare. This government attitude to people problem is like Queen
Marie Antoinette upon learning that the peasants had no bread
suggested them to eat cake!

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 15:55 IST

@ the author (re post): With all due respect -

The readers of The Hindu are, by and large, a sophisticated lot, even
when they are being partisan. And, despite your complex article, I
think they are doing quite well un-picking the subtleties in their own
I don’t think the readers are waiting for deliverance by any Superman
or woman, or by any Dynast!!
It is hard to unravel why anyone "could not function" in govt, because
most ordinary citizens have no access to much of the inner workings of
a govt, and have to go on by their own assessment of material in the
public domain (noting that parts of Indian media may not be
independent), leaving aside the difficulties of reading any
psychological and similar aspects of anyone.
So, why not wait and see how they get on "look[ing] beyond the obvious
explanations [or your analysis] for a malaise, and find its deeper
causes"? Like the PM, the citizens also have the nation's best
interest at heart!

from:  D Mahapatra
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 15:45 IST

Though ability of PM can not be underestimated because he spearheaded the '91 reforms which were requisite seeing the economic condition of the country at that time.But now when similar reforms are needed to boost our economy he is not working accordingly. His authority of taking decision seems to be paralyzed. But instead of being quite he should try to advocate some moves weather it is regarding foreign policy or inflation.

from:  Devang
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 15:37 IST

Manmohan Singh once ragged Advani of entertaining a burning desire to
become prime minister, in a speech in parliament. That elicited a few
claps and desk thumping. The point is also debatable.

But what is now not debatable is Singh's own burning but hidden desire
to stick to his chair at all costs, including going down in history as
one who carried the dead weight of an extra constitutional authority
on his back all through these years to the detriment of good
governance and the country's economic ill-health.

from:  B.V.SHENOY
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 15:21 IST

Mr. Singh is Leader of this country so every positive & negative work will have appriciation as well as blame for him. But the thing is how you have a control over your party and your subordinate. the falling of congress image or Mr. Singh image is due to not have control over sub leader.

from:  Purushottam Yadav
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 14:52 IST

There is certainly sumptuous food for thought in the lengthy article "Why the government is paralysed" (July 23) painstakingly compiled by Prem Shankar Jha and presented for public gaze through the columns of The Hindu. Whether openly admitted or not by all, it is a fact that Dr.Manmohan Singh's personal integrity does not have many parallels in the present-day poltics. No one can dispute the fact that he is one among the world's most eminent economists too. Yet, the turn of adverse events -as though planned by destiny- which started to happen one after the other in quick succession, has certainly led to the present situation wherein almost everyone has started to find in Dr.Singh, an inefficient Prime Minister, weak to the extent of being blamed with lack of initiative and prompt action. A reputed magazine has been the latest to join them. When a member of the Rajya Sabha is entitled to hold the post of the country's Prime Minister, why try to blame him, every now and then, with the charge that he has not occupied that post after getting elected to the Lok Sabha? In a coalition government of the type now functioning under the title of UPA 2, with pulls and counter pulls from different parties, for their own gains- that too when remote-controlled by his own party leadership - he cannot be expected to achieve fully what the people expect of him. He too has, on certain occasions, referred to such compulsions under coalition politics. The best thing he could have done to avoid being ridiculed, like what is happening now, was to resign honourably. This is not to support him merely for the sake of support. His services could have been better utilised by the country in the areas he best fits in. I am sure there will be millions of Indians like me who feel sorry for the situation he is presently in.

from:  K.D.Viswanaathan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 14:26 IST

Why is there such reluctance to mention Sonia, who is really calling all
the shots. It is surprising, there are no articles in Hindu on Sonia

from:  Jayashree
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 14:11 IST

this is a known fact that sonia Gandhi is responsible for all our troubles and making our federal and constitution a joke.but who facilitated her is our prime minister....your article is like saying"i didn't pass in exam because the teacher didn't give me marks"

from:  mahesh
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 14:05 IST

There is another, more important reason. UPA-I came at a time when the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty was still in mourning and our country and the Congress were not looking to this family which has crippled our nation. Dr. Singh also had carte blanche from PV Narasimha Rao who covered his back and let him do what he considered best. Now, we have Dr. Singh exposed to friendly fire from the Left, and his ability to take decisions is severely compromised as he is reined in by the Congress Loyalists and Sonia Gandhi. As long as we and our most important political party cannot free ourselves from this dynastic feudal mindset and purge its ranks of the Nehru family and their loyalists, there can be no progress.

from:  Vivek
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 13:51 IST

PREM SHANKAR JHA REPLIES: I wish to thank all who have responded to my article for taking the trouble to do so. More than your individual angst, it is the family of criticisms and suggestions that will, or should , give the government a pointer on where the people want it to go. My purpose in writing the article was to remind all of you that it is necessary to look beyond the obvious explanations for a malaise, and find its deeper causes .Blaming someone is easy. Understanding why he or she could not function is less so. But till we do so, we will not be able to make it possible for our political system to be run by ordinary people under the rule of law Relying on supermen can become dangerous.

from:  prem shankar Jha
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 13:38 IST

its so ironical that the prime minister gets emotionally charged once a year and cries about his haplessness.I fail to understand that what stops him to resign and atleast live a life of pride minus foreign trips, perks , protocols , etc.etc. etc...... ok fine i think rome can burn for some more time while nero keeps playing fiddle , do hell with the country ,if music be the food of love then play on...

from:  rohan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 13:34 IST

The article is noteworthy as an example of how to look "positively". No one expects this government to perform miracles with coalition partners who are there only in pursuit of power and not policies. The government lost its credibility on 2 G and their disinclination to make even a token effort to retrieve the money in "Swiss" banks. This may have emboldened the coalition partners to exploit the situation to their advantage. The PM's UPA I image disappeared in UPA II, as a result. One expectation: He could have forced action on the above two issues with a threat to quit. He failed, miserably failed as he was seen as supporting 2 G players. Past laurels are of no relevance. He failed in UPA II, miserably.

from:  S.rajagopalan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 13:22 IST

The reasons you are elaborating is not a great achievement from a person of such a great calibre. We are very much dishearten and baffled by the way things are handled by the current govt. The most important issue at the moment the NRI' s in Gulf are facing is the hike in Air Fare. And inconsistency of Air India and the govt have given bitter experience to us. Really thinking that this govt & this party should not win or stand for any election. Such a corrupted govt we can't see anywhere else. So its 100% apt to say the Govt is fully paralysed.

from:  NAMITA
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 12:13 IST

Solution to the problem of weak governance in India lies in a politician replacing the present technocrat prime minister. If the Congress legislator party is allowed to elect a leader and if Rahul Gandhi decides to contest the election he is sure to get elected unanimously. Being a member of the parliament he is eligible to contest for the post of PM. His being son of Ms Sonia Gandhi doesn’t certainly disqualify him. Baring some fringe right wing Hinduthva groups and a few pseudo intellectuals’ Indian people will welcome Rahul as prime minister. Rajiv Gandhi turned out to be the most beloved prime minister and as leader of opposition he realised where he went wrong. Who knows Rahul also may turn out to be a good prime minister? Rahul should take plunge and end this drift in Indian politics. However if Indian people disapprove this they have the chance to show it in 2014.

from:  Baikadi Suryanarayana Rao
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 12:03 IST

The two conventions, not noticed by Mr. Jha, in British Parliamentary Democray, that brought about supremacy of the parliamentary party and the prime minister were: the Prime Minister is elected to the House of Commons, and so is the Chancellor of the Exchequer. When the Indian Constituent Assembly adopted a constitution based on parliamentary democracy, this was taken for granted by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Ambedkar and Rajendra Prasad.

from:  C.Raghavan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 11:51 IST

I am a big fan of Mr. Singh as anyone else, but that doesnt give any concession to him and his non-usefull use of his powerful P.M. post. Last ball cricket match finishes and last minute goals can be done by people who are brave enough. Having just an intellectual brain isnt always going to help. Having said all that, I still feel he is the best P.M. India can have only if he becomes more independent and is brave enough to take further steps.

from:  sravan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 11:41 IST

Putting the blame on coalition for the paralysis is ludicrous. but for the coalition, the anti people policies like multi brand FDI wouldn't have been stopped.Coalition dharma is only the safety valve.The real problem lies within the government and it's disillusioned 'rob the poor and pay the rich' policies.UPA 2 has failed already and the only aching issue of the people now is to find a good alternative,which is conspicuous by its absense.

from:  Vikraman Krishnan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 11:18 IST

The article is on expected lines. No doubt, there are no reports of scams by him and his family. That way, he is comparable to William Pitt, the elder who was clean in the midst of corruption in the eighteenth century Britain. But, repeatedly crediting him as the sole architect of the liberalisation of the 1990's without giving due credit to the real hero, namely, the then PM, Narasimha Rao is regrettable. We hope the Hindu will advise the column writers to rectify this omission.

from:  Dr S.Srinivasan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 11:09 IST

I thank Mr Sigh as its because of his reforms in the 90's that I sit here in an air-conditioned room and comment about his Governance. What India needed at the beginning of the millennium was a statesman, one who had immense imagination and could take measures that will make sure the well being of the country in the decades to come and at that point we had Mr Singh, to whom the country owes for its current prosperity. But now what we(media and public) need is not only a statesman, but the combination of a statesman and a crook. Simple advise to solve all these issues.. go test another A-bomb, of perform another operation Parakram-2, because in reality we don't need any development or corruption free system, we have lived happily with the system for 5 decades. We just need some one to blame for our shortcomings, and some hot news over coffee. We will oppose the introduction of FDI in retail till our last breath and will also accuse you for not bringing development.

from:  Arun MP
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 11:02 IST

The writer while showering praise on the Prime Minister for the GDP growing attained by the Govt. in UPA-I failed to analyse the failoure of UPA-II but blames this to the party and his advisers. But what a layman cannot understand is that how a prime minister on whose dictation the govt. functions failed to notice the great scams viz. 2G spectrum, coal lease etc. and still mainains that these were not scams but only govt. policiy. His closing his eyes on unbridled exploitation of natural resources by the capital class is unpardanable. The writer failed to mention that he is not a political leader but a bureaucrat hence failed to feel the pulse of the people. He is a success as a administrator but a failure as a politician. This is the reason for the present policy paralyses.

from:  T.V.Padmanabhan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 10:41 IST

Dr Manmohan singh may be a true, non corrupt and an honest official
with no discrepancy in his deeds, but equally true is the fact that
any leader under whom there have been biggest of the corruption
Fiasco's needs to reconsider his moral stature.

Sadly, the view of Mr Prime minister comes as a weak, less confident
entity and hence the perception that even if the powers are at his
disposal, there is a very bleak probability of it being put to
effective use. The brunt of the blame is deserved by the PM and
having said that the people who are actually responsible for all
Fiasco's should not be spared eighter .

from:  ravikant
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 10:28 IST

if prime minister is praised when country does good, then should be blamed when country does bad.

from:  vivek
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 09:58 IST

Where does Mr. Manmohan Singh stand on reform, open markets and development? No new initiatives have been taken even after the Supreme Court mandated river linking. This combined with solar power (as Mr. Modi has done on the Narmada Canal in a small way) would contribute significantly to the national infrastructure and also generate PRODUCTIVE jobs. The highway program of the previous government seems to have been stalled.

Instead, the only new program under his tenure has been the NREGA which harks back to failed social welfare programs of the 1960s-- to be followed by the Food Security Bill.

How does this square with his image as a reformer, when he seems to be taking the country back to centralized planning of the past with an all-powerful but unproductive Planning Commission? (If you want to see how ineffective the PC has been, just look at the water and power situation in and around Delhi. This after 60 years of planning.)

from:  N.S. Rajaram
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 09:55 IST

There are several issues that are responsible for the state of our
govt but perhaps the most awkward one is, our current PM has to
function under two bosses hence the poor man cannot take any
independent decision. All govts have flatly refused to implement
measures from the counter terrorism doctrine for the past 26 years
ever since Zia ul Huq launched his eminently successful terrorism
campaign on a hapless India, due to vote bank concerns. That is why we
treat convicted terrorists like Mohd Afzal and Ajmal Kasab - Abu
Jundal will join them now - as VIPs and our honoured guests. Earlier
we had Azhar Masood and Omar Sheikh as the NDA outfit's guests. It
takes huge lot of guts to wage war against Pakistan, an imperative
that no PM has ever had other than Indira Gandhi. The NDA outfit was
terrified of Islamabad. Manmohan Singh's idea of making the LOC
irrelevant is a bonus for Pakistani terrorists who can then simply
multiply their present access into the Kashmir Valley.

from:  JK Dutt
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 09:34 IST

We are sick and tired of reading the analysis of MMS rule. None of the wheels with in wheels political maneuvers during UPA2 will be remembered as an excuse for his failure, but history will record without mercy the fact that Dr. Singh, despite being honest and great knowledge of economics, as the one who presided over the empire of robber barons under the pretext of “coalition dharma”. We cannot but recall resignation of Rajaji tired of being persistently overruled by Nehru with regard to critical decisions. No wonder today he is recalled fondly as one of giants of post Independent India. Posterity certainly will not be kind to Dr. Singh and like Mark Antony saying in Julius Caesar, “the evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones”

from:  N.G. Krishnan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 09:08 IST

It was always a good idea to keep a front man of good reputation to cover the scams, non-transparency and unaccountability of the ruling party and their cronies. The stink emanating from the administration has become unbearable to most thinking people in the country. However, elections are won by the votes of the illiterate and uninformed, and they are a plenty, who are easily pleased by minor mercies given to them before the election. Thus goes the democracy in India!

from:  Saratchandran
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 08:32 IST

There has been a growing tendency to pass-off responsibility in the name of the complex configuration of the opposition, the media, the bureaucrats and the coalition partners. The ministers facing corruption charges are out on bail. They might be innocent, but where did the money go? Is anybody even looking at the answers? Price rise has nearly knocked down the middle-class. Do they deserve such kind of uncontrolled economy? I lived in the US and today the lowest transaction is of 1 cent. We have devalued our currency so much due to inflation and other things... Do we really hope to be a super power? Honestly, I don't think we are anywhere there. If you look at construction, the costs of houses have never dipped due to recession. Doesn't this mean that the parallel economy is larger than the 'reported' economy? Ignorance is never a justification for the highest seat of power. Neither is in-action! Thanks for your effort anyway.

from:  Nikhil Gurjar
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 08:32 IST

Uncertainty Dr.Singh is great economist but now he is PM. He should think and do like a PM not like economist every time.

His main responsibility is to lead India not look other leader to lead India
Doc please do your work

from:  Kuldeep Singh
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 08:09 IST

Mr. P. S. Jha has done a service to political analysis in India. It underlines that in a parliamentary democracy - in fact in all democracies - building and securing healthy conventions is of prime importance. We must press for encodement of parliamentary privileges and if necessary have a Constitutional provision for giving wider powers to a Prime Minister or a state Chief Minister to call for elections. After all the Constitution recognizes Parliament, the Executive and the Judiciary -- but not the President or General Secretary of a political party.

from:  Prosenjit Das Gupta
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 07:45 IST

Dr manmohan singh is a man of integrity and sincerity. However the past 1 year has seen lacunae in many policy decisions. This is a tough time for the Prime Minister for battling the media, the opposition and his own party at the same time. We cannot trust a foreign magazine against our better judgement and believe in their President who recently made almost this same statement a few days ago. It also reeks of malice to term him an underachiever. Team Anna have lost their credibility. They might harp upon corruption but they do not seem sincere any more. The US is go to polls very soon. Let us not get ahead of ourselves.

from:  bharath
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 07:22 IST

To cut short the long winded article, the crux is the mother-son duo will take credit when there is one and leave Dr Singh to carry the can when things go wrong. This is not new in Congress. Indira Gandhi as the President of the party and Prime Minister appointed Working Presidents in Congress. Kamlapathi Tripathi held this thankless position for sometime. Coming to Dr Singh he accepted the position as a short term stint to keep the seat warm for the heir-apparent. But the Government or the party could not come up with one sweeping reform that Rahul Gandhi could hijack and call it his own to ease his way into the PM's office. Dr Singh's internal problems are corrupt colleagues and not having the clout of the party chief. Team Anna did spoil the party for him. Successes in Extrenal Affairs don't count in India; prices, law and order, education and employment are the burning topices at any point of time. Bangladesh war was different.

from:  mani sandilya
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 07:21 IST

Well written Sir! What do you think the solution is?

from:  Vikram Bodicherla
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 07:09 IST

Sad that the blame is on only MMS. The blame has to be on the whole
political class, who have ruined and misled the Indians.

from:  P.Tauro
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 06:44 IST

The impression that the government is in absolute disarray first got
created in the media, after the 2G scam broke out, and when Anna
Hazare & Baba Ramdev began their movements. The government got
defined by the evening talk shows on TV and the newspaper headlines
that followed the next day. To compound matters issues of inflation
and pressures on the currency were handled using old text solutions by
both RBI and Mr. Mukherjee, which only furthered the economic slow
The failure of Mr. Manmohan Singh lay in not setting the agenda for
the country aggressively through the media - the astounding growth rates till 1Q 2011, the accelerated reduction in poverty (see 2011 census), the overall feel good factors (till 2G) should have enabled Mr. Singh to address the nation and the media head on several times a
week to set the tone.
Instead his diffidence, and later his defensiveness have led to the impression of paralysis, which indeed is a reality today.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 06:42 IST

How exactly is the statement, "Even a more self-assertive prime minister wouldn't be of much help",justified?
Also, the power to dissolve the parliament is the only extra legitimate power of PM of Britan. So, how is that going to empower the PM of India even if we had it in our constitution? Just by threatening to dissolve the parliament, can the PM play his cards better than before?
Rather, the sheer volume of parties and local parties is killing the democracy. The future appears bleak, with no national party getting any desired majority and the coalition forming the dead locks in policy making. So, if anything needs to be changed, the rules for formation of political parties should be restricted and the already established parties should be managed well. Politicians should choose the lesser evil of the 2 national level parties. People in the party should elect their candidate for every election.
These changes can bring the desired changes in the longterm.

from:  Ravi Kiran
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 06:29 IST

very well articulated. thank you

from:  ravi
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 05:19 IST

The author has made a valiant attempt to absolve Manmohan Singh of the failures of the government he heads, but is unconvincing. The UPA-I ran on the momentum generated by the previous government. No new reforms were undertaken while scamsters within and outside the government plundered. No matter how 'decent' Mr. Singh is (were other PMs indecent?), history will record him as presiding over the most corrupt government of modern India. This will be his legacy that history will remember-- like President Warren Harding and his scandals like the Teapot Dome.

Clearing the mess and restoring trust, integrity and a functioning government will be the challenges before the next government. This too will be his legacy.

As for his "resolve the Kashmir dispute by softening and eventually erasing the Line of Control that found favour with President Pervez Musharraf [of all people!], and the India-U.S. nuclear agreement," is no achievement, but a liability. Where does the buck stop?

from:  N.S. Rajaram
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 05:14 IST

It is surprising that the unusually long presentation of Mr. Jha does not contain one of the real causes of the recent phenomenon of 'underachievement' of Mr. Singh. The cause of his reduced effectiveness is his hands are tied at his back by none other than our omnipotent Congress President, whose authority permeates in all government decisions and operations whether it is good for India or not.

from:  C. Lakshmanan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 04:45 IST

The illustration to this article speaks volumes. Yes, the shoe is too big for a life-long bureacurat.

from:  Mohanraj
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 03:56 IST

This a very biased article. If you cannot blame the Prime Minister for all the failures then you cannot attribute the success to him too. Mr. Singh neither has political weight in the nation as leader nor does he have a strong image within the party and the UPA coalition. Finally, nobody no matter what he/she has done for the country is greater than the country. Therefore in the nation's interest, if Mr. Singh cannot get his house in order then he deserves to be criticized and does not deserve a second chance.

from:  Nikhil K
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 03:35 IST

Very good insight ! Thank you, for the article. I don't take sides in this discussion,
but it is necessary to know how the gamble happens on a larger scale irrespective of
the merits , not just at times, but most of the times !

from:  Nikhil Pavan Kalyan
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 02:55 IST

Mr. Jha: WHY NOT blame Manmohan Singh? Why is he holding on to the chair if he cannot govern in the interest of the nation and instead is allowing foreign power gradualy taking total control of the nation?Insn't the very Nuke deal you mentioned in the article a proof in iteself?

from:  Ram
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 02:47 IST

I agree with the analysis but not with the pronto sis. Mr. Singh should not have just "offered
to resign" but should have quit to uphold his dignity and authority. Nobody is indispensable
including the world renowned economist when he finds that he is not effective.

Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 02:21 IST

Some excellent points indeed!

from:  Mukundagiri Sadsgopa.
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 02:12 IST

This is a great article about how to make perfectly logical argument that has little
flaws and yet produce counter intuitive results ..... I m not sure if our democracy is
headed the US way but our Journalism is definitely headed in that direction

from:  Nikhil Singh
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 01:43 IST

This article though written in good faith to unblame the Prime Minister for unprecedented scams under his watch,lack of governance under UPA-2,disregard toward Cabinet collective responsibility.But unfortunately fails miserably in its objective.The very reality that the PM has not appointed his own Principal Secretary is a single most important reason to bear the blame of dissmal performance by Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister.Second, what prevents him to mix with the people,be transparent and answer to the people woes through regular press conference?India,World's largest democracy is governed by an unelected Prime Minister! Is it not ample reason for the blame?It is a slur on Indian Democracy and a cause of crisis of the Indian democracy.Mr Singh remains as Prime Minister,it is his choice.Why under all odds Mr Singh does not opt to resign and let the people give their verdict a new? Sadly,the Congress Party and its President are responsible for the party sulking political fortune.

from:  Prof A N Malviya
Posted on: Jul 23, 2012 at 01:40 IST
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